Words on Sounds podcast, episode 14

A baker's dozen of great pieces on this week's edition of the Words on Sounds Podcast:

--a piece from Nick Storring's new cassette on Orange Milk Records
--a very nice surprise of a b-side from St. Vincent's Black Friday 10'' single
--a favorite touch people piece of mine from Darren's Rainy Road Records cassette last year
--heavy acoustic improv from SULT's new album
--a classic Octis single
--a classic transitional piece from Normal Love's 7'' on High Two
--great electroacoustic treatments from Charles Barabé's "Empreintes" tape on Jeunesse Cosmique
--similarly great electroacoustic from Massimo Falascone's disc on Public Eyesore / Eh?
--a short solo bari circular breathing jam from Curt Oren
--wonderful layered treatments of his own string quartet recordings from Patrick Higgins
--a piece from the early-ish recorded portion of Jon Mueller's Death Blues project, co-released by TaigaRecords and Hometapes
--a textured, piano-dominant piece from Black Thread/ Cascading Fragments
--and the opening banger from the new Horse Lords LP on NNA Tapes

Tune in, turn on, drop out!


Words on Sounds Podcast, episode 13

Episode 13 of the Words on Sound Podcast is now available, featuring:

--A track from the new Zs album that will be released in January on Northern Spy
--A piece from the great new Jessica Pavone album on Taiga Records
--A cut from Pulse Emitter's LP on Immune Recordings
--a track from a 7'' by percussionist Matt Weston
--a short burner from Joey Molinaro's "International Coven of Dangerous Violinistry"
--seriously layered craziness from Looks Realistic's tape on Beer On The Rug
--A song from this summer's Walker/Melchoir 7'' on Kill Shaman Records
--A beautiful tune from a Cerberus Shoal 7'' on Eternal Otter Records
--Deep listening from Che Chen's 7'' on Pilgrim Talk
--an unpredictable tune from a Mutandini Karl 7'' on Knertz
--gorgeously orchestrated and performed solo work from Nick Storring on Scissor Tail Editions
--collaged weirdness from Pierrot Lunaire's 7'' on Hooker Vision
--and an intense, heavy duo workout from Matta Gawa on New Atlantis Records
Amazing show! Get your ears ready...


New Zs album Xe due in January

It's been a long wait for a new full-length from NYC's uber-iconoclasts Zs. Since 2010's "New Slaves," the band released a "holy trinity" of short end-of-era jams in witness to their lineup of the time coming to its end (Sky Burial, 33, and This Body Will be a Corpse), and the wonderful sextet-era retrospective box set "Score." Last year brought "Grain," in which the newest Zs roster (Greg Fox and Patrick Higgins have joined Sam Hillmer) heavily rework the final unreleased recordings of the previous lineup. It's a conceptually fascinating album, essentially drawing the project's next breath out of its own recorded momentum, but to be honest, I found its ritual-rebirth implications more interesting conceptually than musically.

However, the band has been workshopping their next major work(s) in live performances over the last few years, as they've often done before, and new album "Xe" has just been announced for release on January 27 via Northern Spy. You can preorder it here already, which will net you a sweet poster designed by Tauba Auerbach as well.

I'll be doing a full review of this album next year for sure, but it's a damned fine record. You'll hear a lot more live-electronics textural work on "Xe," which is already resonating with me way more than "Grain" (they have a highly sculpted, musique concrete approach toward live electronics on these pieces),but fans of the most rigorous maximal/minimal extremities of previous albums will find much to love here as well. The 18-minute title track is currently making my day about a million times better than I expected--it's classic Zs, perfectly composed and performed. I'm really digging "Corps," too, full of gorgeous clean guitar tones balancing blazing drum work punctuated with Hillmer's sax. Glad to see you coming back to the new arrivals bin, Zs! The five-year wait was a drag, but "Xe" is well worth the wait.


Words on Sounds Podcast Ep. 12 now available

Episode 12 of the Words on Sounds podcast is now available, featuring:

--a selection from the mind-bogglingly good new Charles Barabé tape on 905 Tapes
--a haunting synth workout from the new Xunholm tape on Skrot Up
--a beautiful, harmonically-rich jam on Dereck Higgins' new LP, "Murphy" on DVH Recordings
--ominous rumbles from the new Megaherbs disc
--an unusually uptempo and sample-based track from German Army's latest on 905
--an excerpt from the A-side of the great new live ARU tape on Warm Gospel
--gnarly live-tracked avant-rockness from PC Worship's bonus cassette from Northern Spy
--uplifting synth densities from Xepter Rose via Constellation Tatsu
--a nice instrumental from Bbjr on his "Blast the Past" comp
--power-doom-jazz from Whoopie Pie on VEAL RECORDS
--great electroacoustic treatments from Johannes Lauxen on knertz
--and an excerpt of a dreamachine-bound drone piece by PSALM'N'LOCKER on YEREVAN TAPES

Tune in, click on, drop out!


PSALM'N'LOCKER - Op. 01, Music for Dreamachine

I was super pumped to see this new release of "Music for Dreamachine" on Yerevan Tapes, as I've been making and using Dreamachines for over 20 years. The Burroughs/Gysin continuum is a huge part of my life, and the Dreamachine and other visual/auditory flicker-production techniques are always worth a try in my book.

For those not familiar with the concept, the Dreamachine creates stroboscopic flicker patterns that you can use to stimulate alpha wave activity in your brain. This in turn can induce states of relaxation, meditation, creative headspaces, visual hallucination patterns, and occasionally outright visions if you're lucky. Or maybe unlucky. There are contemporary eyeglass/headphone-based devices like the Brain Machine or PSiO that create similar sound and light flicker patterns, or you can just hold a little strobe light up to your (closed) eyelids for a similar effect, but the old-school Dreamachine has to win for style points. You can build your own for cheap, too--you just need a janky old turntable, a hunk of thick posterboard, and something to cut holes. You can find lots of information and DIY plans at Interzone Creations. I made my own for years, which weren't pretty but worked fine, and I upgraded to a sexier "classic" template made by 10111.org via Important Records a few years ago which makes me feel like I'm vibing with the Beat Hotel lineage.

The Dreamachine functions by inducing steady flicker patterns in the alpha range, around 7-13 flickers per second. But how does one emulate these effects with music? Almost any kind of music seems to enhance the experience, but there have been a few efforts more closely aligned with the experience, like Throbbing Gristle's "Heathen Earth" album and the Hafler Trio/Psychic TV "Present Brion Gysin's Dreamachine" release. Those recordings feel intuitively-connected to the Dreamachine experience, encouraging a kind of cinematic relationship. With the new head-mounted class of related gadgets, headphones often provide sounds made more mathematically from binaural beats, an aural-perception effect created from the difference in two closely-related pitches. If you produce beats in the 7-13 Hz range, you're potentially stimulating the alpha band, and you'll perceive that as a sort of rumble or heavy vibration. If you move the results up a few octaves, they'll be audible as extremely low pitches audible around the bottom extreme of most playback systems.

Fundamentally a drone piece with gentle shifts in texture and weight, PSALM'N'LOCKER's "Music for Dreamachine" splits the difference between bland mathematics and soundtrack dramatics. This piece is quite deliberate in creating low-frequency beats through difference tones produced by 2 Bontempi air organs that are slightly out of tune from one another. But it also ebbs and flows musically, sounding both inspired by and designed to enhance the shifting geometric patterns associated with the Dreamachine. The reeds of the small organs carry overtones of their own, further complicating the location of precise beats as their relationships vary at different intervals, but they make for a musically-satisfying timbral pallette compared to the more medicinal qualities of pure sine wave-based binaural work. One hears the difference tones as rumbles, gurgles, or sometimes as very low notes that seem to be felt more than heard, and if you stay the recommended minimum distance away from the speakers, you'll also find that you can locate different beating effects within the complex field of sound simply by moving your head around. The beats often manifest as insectoid kinds of sounds, especially recalling the stridulation of crickets. And the piece is carefully recorded with a pair of nice microphones into a portable reel-to-reel machine--I'm guessing that the recordings stayed in an analog signal path from creation to duplication, and the final consumer copies sound lovely on cassette.

All told, Luca Garino and his PSALM'N'LOCKER project have made a fine solo debut--this piece is creative, thoughtfully-executed, and a pleasure to experience. If you're into good drone-based music, you're sure to enjoy this album regardless of your proximity to stroboscopic paraphernalia. And the packaging is especially noteworthy, too--Yerevan has produced this as a one-sided tape to eliminate a side break in the middle of this 28-minute piece, a smart decision. The artwork, also made by Garino, is reproduced on luxurious opaque vellum paper, evoking the light-manipulation attributes of the Dreamachine, and producing a striking composite image as two separate photos fold to become visible together on the cover. Dream on.


Podcast Episode 11 now available

A baker's dozen of great pieces, most freshly released in the last week or two, await your lucky ears on this week's edition of the podcast: